Ag briefs: Minnesota farmer trampled to death by livestock

Wisconsin State Farmer


Lightning Safety Awareness in Wisconsin 

Wisconsin’s Lightning Safety Awareness Day was June 25 and ReadyWisconsin encourages everyone to learn more about the dangers of lightning and what steps they should take to remain safe.

“When thunder roars, go indoors,” advised Wisconsin Emergency Management Administrator Brian Satula. “Lightning strikes can kill or seriously injure a person in the blink of an eye. When you are outdoors this summer, watch the skies and seek safe shelter if you hear thunder or see lightning.”

According to the National Lightning Safety Council, 396 people were struck and killed by lightning in the United States between 2006 and 2018. Of those fatalities, nine were in Wisconsin. Almost two-thirds of those killed nationwide were involved in outdoor leisure activities at the time they were struck.

Even if the skies are clear directly overhead, a bolt of lightning can travel several miles from the center of a storm. If you can hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you.

The safest place to be is inside a sturdy shelter, such as a house. Even the inside of a car with a hard top is safer than being out in the open during a thunderstorm. If you are inside a vehicle, avoid touching metal surfaces that could conduct electricity. Never seek cover under a tree or think you are safe by being low to the ground. Get out of open areas and away from bodies of water, such as lakes or rivers.

Health officials say if a person you are with is struck by lightning, immediately dial 911 and start performing CPR. Don’t be afraid to touch the victim — the human body does not hold an electrical charge.


Sheriff: Farmer apparently trampled to death by livestock

Sheriff's officials say a farmer in western Minnesota has died after he was trampled by his livestock.

Forty-one-year-old Craig Thoennes was found dead near a bull and two cows on Saturday at his farm southwest of Parkers Prairie. The Douglas County Sheriff's Office says Thoennes was apparently trampled by the bull and possibly the cows.


Gnat invasion presents threat to chickens, large livestock

An invasion of gnats is presenting a risk to the health and lives of livestock in a southern Minnesota town.

Gnats cause weight loss and stress for any animal with their bites and by gathering around eyes and in airways, the Mankato Free Press reported.

Brooke Knisley, who runs an organic produce farm with her husband in St. Peter, said one of her friends has lost 16 chickens to the gnats this year. Knisley lost four chickens to gnats a few years ago, she said.

"The chickens piled on top of each other and they get smothered," Knisley said.

She noted that she's trying to reduce the risk for her own flock by running fans in the chicken coop, hanging fly strips and placing vanilla-soaked rags near where the gnats congregate.

Gnats can kill large livestock, too. In the Deep South, ranchers often lose cows to the gnats, which get up in the cattle's airways— causing anaphylactic shock. They can die from blood loss because of all the incisions made by gnats.

Megan Willette's horses are also affected by the gnats.

"They bite, they irritate, they make them anxious," said Willette, who has three horses on her place on the outskirts of St. Peter. She said wiping and bathing them has helped.


Police checking whether Indiana dairy farm abuse was coerced

A prosecutor says investigators are looking into whether an animal rights group worker coerced employees at a large northwestern Indiana dairy farm into the abuse of young calves that was captured on undercover video.

Newton County Prosecutor Jeff Drinski says a witness has corroborated allegations from an abuse suspect that the Animal Recovery Mission employee encouraged the abuse at Fair Oaks Farms. Drinski says detectives will try to interview the group's employee.

Animal Recovery Mission founder Richard Couto called the allegation "ridiculous and absurd." He says none of the group's video shows any encouragement of abuse.

The farm that's a popular agritourism destination has faced public backlash over videos released by the group. It's also been the flagship farm for Fairlife milk, which has been dropped by several grocery chains.